Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sleepy Hollow, Season Two, Episode Nine: Mama

Abbie makes her way through the fog, while in the distance, someone can be heard singing, You Are my Sunshine.  Suddenly, Abbie comes across a figure sheathed in black robes. Abbie recognizes the figure as her mother Lori and Lori turns and says, "Abigail demons," causing Abbie to wake up.  A very sick Ichabod arrives, determined that since he fought with dysentery, he can work with a cold. Abbie hands Crane a bottle of medicine, instructing him to take the pills, drink a lot of liquids and head back to bed.  Ichabod struggles with the clearly child proof bottle and Abbie is forced to open it for him.  Crane points out that he is not the only one dealing with fatigue because he found Abbie sleeping but Abbie counters, saying that she was up late doing research. Abbie explains that in her dream, she was back in purgatory running from Moloch, when she ran into her mother, who was singing a song she sang to her and Jenny as children, before warning Abbie about demons. Crane points out that Moloch sent demons to torment Lori before she died and Abby agrees that this explains why Lori committed suicide but not why she has been dreaming about Lori every night this week.  Abbie covers Crane with a blanket and then gets a call from Reyes.  Crane stands to head to the precinct with Abbie, but is told that he is not going anywhere.

Reyes informs Abbie that there have been three deaths, all by suicide at Tarrytown psychiatric.  The issue is that there are normally no more than one or two suicides a year.  Abbie asks what the hospital staff has to say, and is informed by Reyes that the hospital staff are the ones who have called in the police.  Abbie questions why she was brought in on this case and Reyes says that Abbie helped bring down a satanic cult, which proves that Abbie can be trusted.  Abbie brings up the fact that Reyes knew her mother and that Lori killed herself in the hospital. Reyes calls it personal incentive to find out what is behind the suicides.  Reyes adds that had she given this case to someone else, Abbie would not have given her a moment's peace.

Jenny and Abbie head to the hospital and Jenny warns Abbie that the hospital is filled with a lot of pain - largely the kind which cannot be cured. Jenny notices that they are being watched by Walter.  When Walter starts to make his way over to the sisters, Nurse Lambart is quick to grab his arm, saying that it is time to get him back to his room.  Nurse Lambart greets the sisters pleasantly and Abbie says that they are going to start their investigation with Captain Irving.  Well, at least it's nice to know that Abbie remembers that Irving is alive.

Frank tells the Abbie that he knew the first suicide - Nelson from group therapy. Frank explains that Nelson used to sell aluminum siding before he came home and beat his neighbour half to death.  Franks adds that Nelson had been fighting paranoid delusions for years.  Abbie questions if Nelson became overwhelmed by his delusions but Frank is quick to say that Nelson was taking his medication regularly and had made major growth in group.   Jenny questions if Nelson relapsed, adding that she had seen it before. Franks says that Nelson had found God and organized a hospital prayer group.  Abbie points out that none of the suicides seem motivated and questions if Frank had anything to do with it and Franks says no but that he doesn't blame Abbie for asking.  Frank gets a vision of talking to Parish and learning that to regain his soul, he must take a life.  Frank makes it clear that his soul belongs to the horseman and adds that for now, he is in control of his actions.  Frank says that he did this to protect Lacey and would make the same choice if he had to.  Abbie promises to get get Frank out of there and asks for his help. How many times is Abbie going to dangle that carrot in order to get Irving to do as she wishes?

Jenny and Abbie are now looking over the CCTV from the hospital and Jenny points out that there is nowhere in the hospital anyone can be without being watched.  Abbie comments that she cannot imagine what it was like for Jenny and Jenny simply explains that you learn to deal with the abuse and being surrounded by misery.  Jenny adds that Lori prepared her for it.  Jenny talks about visiting Lori in the hospital because she wanted to have a moment with her but instead, she watched as orderlies dragged Lori away.  Jenny asks Abbie what she is trying to find there because the case will not change what happened to their mother.  Abbie reveals that for the longest time, she worried that she would end up "crazy" liker her mother and then when Jenny was brought to the hospital, she thought that she was next. Abbie adds that she wants to understand why she was chosen to become a witness.

Jenny finds the video of Nelson's room on the night of his death.  Abbie uses the night vision overlay to get a better view of the video and the sisters see their mother standing in the corner. 

Back at the archives, Crane questions if Abbie is certain that the woman she saw in the video was indeed her mother.  Abbie responds that Jenny took the video to be analysed but she is already certain that it was indeed her mother.   Crane is still sick and grumpy.  Abbie goes through the list of therapies her mother received and Crane points out that the treatment didn't work because Abbie's mother saw real demons. Abbie reveals that she has been thinking about her last memories with her mother but says that at the time, Lori seemed crazy.

The scene shifts to young Jenny and young Abbie coming home.  Lori screams at her children when she learns that they took the bus home because she had instructed her children to take a specific path.  The children say that they wanted to talk to their friends but Lori continues screaming that the people they think are their friends might not be.  Lori hugs her girls and they say in unison, "eyes open, head up, trust no one."

Atlantis, Season 2, Episode 1: A New Dawn

King Minos is dead! Apparently (did that happen last season, I forget?) Anyway new-Queen Ariadne is naturally very sad but the ashes are barely cool before one of her minions report a town is under attack due to evil step-mother Pasiphae learning of Minos’s demise.

Ariadne’s response to this is to send Jason, Hercule and Pythagoras to the town to escort Sarpedon, a guy living there, out of the city of Thera which has fallen (fear not Lord Sarpedon, Ariadne has sent her least capable subjects to help you!). Escorting him also means carrying his very very heavy luggage.

They’re attacked and Hercules and Jason show a surprising level of competence. But Jason is distracted by lady!peril – Hercules points out that the city is actually falling, there’s a massacre going on, you really can’t save everyone. Jason announces he has to try this would mean single handedly stopping the invasion. Luckily none of the other imperilled of the city are attractive young women so Jason is willing to leave after saving her.

Switch to Pasiphae for some exposition as she talks to her general who tells us that Atlantis has never fallen and he doesn’t think they can do it. Pasiphae tells us there’s a statue in the balance with big godly power that stops Atlantis falling so long as it remains in the city. They shall siege this city by means of art theft!

To Atlantis (and screw the statue, it’s on top of a cliffy - plateau with huge walls at the top, that’s going to be a pain in the arse to siege with anything less than bombers, cruise missiles or angry mongols). Sarpedon has been summoned to be Ariadne’s advisor and apparently he and Minos had a beef with each other (which fits the legend which is a nice change for Atlantis).

They may have been hasty to trust him and escort him into the city as a man incapacitates one of the guards then sends a signal to Sarpedon. He opens his heavy chest inside which is a woman holding a knife – she is Medea.

She sneaks through the palace to find a magically hidden room and then makes her way down into a very deep hidden cave. At a strong room she seems to use magic to break down the door and enter a fabulous treasury. Inside she finds a statue and takes it – as she does it glows and Atlantis shakes.

The earthquake rocks all of Atlantis (including where Jason & co are gambling, Hercules losing of course). The quake ends and Medea seems quite upset and shocked by what she’s done. She’s spotted by the guards and runs through the palace, jumping off the balcony and landing on the back of a giant… bird? Dragon? Bat? The guards deserve an award for not even blinking at this before shooting arrows at her (they miss, but hey, still good discipline).

Jason & co are called before Ariadne so she can fill them in on the statue theft (the Palladium). They need to keep it hush hush because if the army learns they’ve lost the artwork they’ll lose all faith in the cliffs, walls, etc and desert. They’re a discerning military and take art appreciation seriously. So Jason & co are dispatched for some art retrieval. Ariadne, you need some better staff

Vampire Diaries Season 6, Episode 8: Fade Into You

9th May 1994 – yes flashback time – to Jo being attacked by her brother while she tried to protect and hide the siblings. The two blond siblings. One girl. One boy. Wait, is that Liv and Luke? Are we really going to run with this many coincidences? Really? We don’t see the murderous brother but just in case there’s any doubt as to who it is, we switch from there to the witchy groundhog day prison where Kai has Bonnie tied up. He’s dragged her to Portland for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving? Or Friendsgiving apparently. Yes it’s another Vampire Diaries holiday/party/celebration which they do ALL THE TIME. Mystic Falls has a holiday of some kind every week. Alas we have to join Caroline and Elena and Elena is angsting because of Liam’s investigation and refusing to wipe his mind because she’s Elena and her actually resolving her problems may mean we don’t have to pay constant attention to her.

Damon, Stefan and Alaric (who has made an AMAZING recovery from a near fatal gut wound. But I guess he has no shortage of healy vampire blood) have gone on a road trip (Damon was invited to Friendsgiving and instructed to bring beans. Stefan was not because Caroline is Making Her Displeasure Known). Also Damon, because of the magic teddy bear, has told the other guys about Bonnie. Elena is shocked he didn’t tell her but Damon snarks about her making life changing decisions without telling him (a dig at the memory wipe which he is really not over). Personally I would have gone with “what, you care about Bonnie? How were we supposed to know? Anyway, they’ve gone to Portland and Alaric and Damon torment Stefan about his Caroline crush and her giving him the silent treatment which is 10 kinds of adorable.

No, really, if you don’t find Stefan and Alaric tormenting Stefan adorable you probably have no soul. You should get that looked at

They reach the location of the Gemini coven and it’s just an open field.

While in the Otherside prison, Bonnie and Kai reach the same place – and there’s a house. Kai explains his coven is paranoid and tries to keep it all secret while reminding us his family considered him an abomination. I’d feel sympathy except the guy is pretty abominable.

In the real world Stefan drop-kicks a bear and it hits a magic ripple. Shockingly, it seems Stefan didn’t consider that the magical secretive witches may have used magic to keep their secrets. Alas, the hair gel he uses has terrible side effects on his brain. The house is revealed

Also I think a vampire would be able to drop kick a teddy bear way further than this. Damon is also way too attached to that bear. I am trying not to find it cute. The gang also makes the big logic leap that Bonnie has put her magic in the teddy bear. They open the door to the house but only Alaric can go in because the vampires haven’t been invited.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Twas the Darkest Night by Sophie Avett

Elsa is a witch and not a happy one. Primary among the things making her unhappy is trying to keep the charm shop she inherited from her father running – a seemingly impossible task. Socialising is something she’s largely written off, preferring cake.

But Marshall, her vampire tenant, may actually have the key to solving her money troubles – but it means going away with him to secure an important contract for his firm. Of course, alone together on a romantic Christmas scrooge (and them both dedicated scrooges), other priorities arise.

This book begins in a very intriguing fashion. We’re presented in a full world with a vast amount of supernatural creatures, a city that is ruled and dominated by the supernatural, lots of monsters and magic and even a focus on some creatures we very rarely see in the genre – Trolls and Huldra. The world is described in a very intriguing fashion. My hopes were raised, this world really interested me and I wanted to see more.

We have a snarky cat, which is always fun, and a protagonist who is both fuller figured and quite happy to enjoy food, especially cake. I always like a protagonist who appreciates good cake.

Elsa herself had a somewhat mundane but neat little task – she has inherited her father’s shop and wants to make it a success; there’s also a very artfully suggested underlying issue she also has to deal with but is more teased than revealed as we burrow into the plot. I also really love Elsa the Troll and her little problem with greed.

I even like how Marshall offers to help – recognising her independence he offers a trade of services: her magical help in exchange for his advertising expertise. He offers a service that will help her shop rather than playing the White Knight and simply buying off her creditors. I was intrigued – this was looking good.

The problem is that this very promising setting is used to be a background for sex. Lots and lots and lots of kinky sex. Sex and S&M scenes consume most of the book and there are major problems with this.

By far far FAR  and away the most severe of them is the problem of consent. The sexual relationship between Elsa and Marshall begins with rape. There’s no ambiguity about this (the book has a “dubcon” and “forced seduction” written in the front – this isn’t dubious – it’s rape. Elsa is restrained, helpless, does not consent and is raped. There is no question of that. The rape is certainly not treated as rape, Elsa does not regard him as a rapist and there is generally a denial of the whole rape element here. If anything, she is annoyed that he has seized control and she is determined to enforce her own authority over the relationship she is now determined to continue and even pursue. She pursues a relationship with her rapist, the rape seems only to annoy her because of the power dynamics of the relationship rather than the actual violation itself.

The 100: Season 2, Episode 5: Human Trials

Clarke is dragged into the camp by the soldiers who shot her and Anya; the soldiers don’t realise Clarke isn’t a grounder until Abbie spots her. Reunion time!

They take her to get medical care and we get to see Major Byrne apologise – totally understandable mistake but everyone hates her so enjoy it anyway.

Anyway after a long rest Clarke wakes up and learns that her mother is now the boss of the area (because politics is so random among these guys). Abbie wants her to rest, Clarke wants to rally everyone against Mount Whether. After a reunion with Raven, they’re interrupted by the arrival of others to the camp – Bellamy, Octavia and Mel who they rescued last week. Greeting Bellamy with a big hug before noticing Finn is missing – looking for her.

At Arc base the council discusses Mount Whether and they make the decision to abandon Finn and Murphy to their own devices because they don’t have the people to go looking for them. They do agree to send someone to find Marcus. Clarke isn’t happy at abandoning them, nor is Bellamy since Abbie was quite happy to send them off looking for Clarke but now she has Clarke suddenly they don’t have the resources to look for people? Yeah smell that bullshit.

Abbie won’t let them go either and orders Byrne to make sure they don’t leave. Of course they ignore her and with Raven’s help, Octavia, Clarke and Bellamy leave.

While they camp for the night, Bellamy angsts about many things including Finn going to the dark side, the whole ending of the last season and how long the 47 former 100 have to live in Mount Whether before they get freaky things done to them like the Grounders.

And what have Finn and Murphy been doing? They’ve found a Grounder village full of civilians while Finn continues to bay for blood in his eternal quest for Clarke. During the night they sneak in and Finn decides to burn the Grounder’s food supplies. With that terrible distraction they sneak further into the village looking for Clarke. When they’re spotted, Finn takes a hostage at gun point

After rounding up everyone at gunpoint, Finn searches the village. Of course, Clarke etc aren’t there. Finn does find some Arc clothing though so Finn snaps and starts pointing guns at people, including pushing a woman into the dirt and points a gun at her head. Murphy tries to talk him down as the stand-in leader of the village explains they just took resources. Murphy finally convinces Finn to let her up.

They learn from the village man that they guy Finn killed was actually cast out and he had lied to them. Shock! Pointing a gun to someone’s head doesn’t guarantee truth! As Finn turns his back, a man tries to run and Finn shoots him. Other people, including a very young man, maybe a boy, charge after that and Finn starts funning them down.

Clarke & co hear the gunfire and arrive to see Finn massacring captured innocents. Clarke is not impressed.

American Horror Story, Season 4, Episode 7: Test of Strength

Jimmy hasn’t been murdered – he’s visiting Bette and Dot – Dot is notably silent while Bette tells Jimmy how happy and well treated she is. When jimmy says the Motts just think of them as freaks to gawk at even simpering Bette can see that there’s little difference between that and the show. When Bette also adds that Dandy is the hero who stopped Twisty, Jimmy realises Dandy was Twisty’s accomplice… Dandy’s attempt to talk the twins out of leaving goes awry when he reveals he’s read Dot’s diary

Dot wants to leave, Bette to stay – but chooses Dot over Dandy. Jimmy leads Bette and Dot out while Dandy stands watching looking very unhappy indeed.

To the show – time for another musical number because why not? Jimmy this time (with Elsa looking on all bitter because someone has talent). Paul is still not dead. Dell has noticed the absence of Andy and decides to violently attack a bar tender. Elsa tries to belittle Jimmy as is her wont, but Jimmy’s not impressed – he confronts her over the treatment of the twins but, surprisingly, Dot speaks up in her defence. She lies for Elsa and secures their return to the show.

Ethel and Desiree both go to their doctors, Ethel definitely in poor health – but the doctor’s is closed after Dell’s attack. His daughter believes it was suicide – and blames Ethel and Desiree for it.

At the show, Stanley reveals to Dell that he saw him at the gay bar. Taunting the strong man may not be the best bet, but Esmeralda saves Stanley from being squished – as arranged by Stanley, he knows blackmail dos and don’ts. Blackmail established, some added gross homophobic wording to the mix and Stanley says what he wants – one of the “freaks”, dead and delivered.

Jimmy and Esmeralda are now sharing a bed – and she’s still trying to convince him to run away with her while he is still focused on the show and Dandy-the-murderer.

His first attempt is Amazon Eve. He tries to chloroform her and she promptly beats him bloody until he’s prone on the floor then throws him out of her trailer. Eve is not impressed by the strongman.

In her tent, Elsa asks Bette and Dot what they want for their lies; they reveal they’re not going to Hollywood, (they rightly don’t trust Stanley). They lay out their demands which start with Belle’s childish claims and follow up with Dot’s more sensible – and harsher – monetary demands. Elsa calls it blackmail, Dot isn’t even slightly worried at the depiction.

The next day, Jimmy, Ethel and Suzi help Eve – Jimmy wants to go to the cops. Ethel thinks that’s ridiculous and thinks a far better idea is murder. Eve is clear Jimmy would certainly have been more vicious if Maggie Esmeralda had been targeted and Ethel questions Jimmy’s ridiculous optimism – there’s no hope or justice or goodness. The only way to get by is to look after their own.

Jimmy assures her she can get rid of Dell – Ethel agrees to let him try but if he doesn’t handle Dell, they will. Jimmy and Dell go into town to talk. They get a drink  – Jimmy is afraid of booze since his mother is an alcoholic but Dell shames him because MEN DRINK, UGH! Dell lies about what happened and Jimmy doesn’t seem overly to care who did what – but he’s worried about what they women will do. The conversation turns to Jimmy’s reminiscing and why he has to wear gloves in public – Dell takes the gloves and says he doesn’t need them, has no reason for shame and he’ll break the skulls of anyone who gives them grief.

Recommendations, Suggestions et al

'Question!' photo (c) 2007, Stefan Baudy - license:

The urban fantasy genre is huge and we’re always scouting for new shows and books in the genre. But we’re still continually surprised by shows and books that have managed to fly under our radar - so we’re throwing out to the community - what have we missed? What should we be watching? What should we be reading? Where’s the hole on our pages?

(And what have you suggested before but our organisation has completely lost? We do occasionally get suggestions by twitter or email. We also lose a lot - please do resend)

New or old, let us know what we need to see. Or even something you think we should comment on!

We’re especially interested in shows/books/games/etc that have minority protagonists or very major characters, of course. Let us know!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Originals, Season Two, Episode Seven: Chasing the Devil's Tail

As children, Elijah and Klaus play in the woods but Elijah loses sight of his younger brother.  It turns out that this is Elijah's vision.  Elijah approaches his younger self, informing him that one day, he will be a monster.  Elijah's younger self kills his older manifestation.  

Klaus sits next to Elijah, who continues dreaming, begging Elijah to let him in to help.  Klaus begins to bleed from his noses and is repulsed by Elijah.  Hayley looks at Elijah's neck, where she discovers a rash.  Klaus however recognizes the rash as something Esther would use to put Michael to sleep when they were children.  Klaus decides to check the bayou to see if the same plant grows there, ordering Hayley to stand watch over Elijah, adding that Esther has already gotten her hands on Hayley once.  Hayley promises to stay put, so Klaus heads out.  Hayley tells a still unconscious Elijah that she won't go after Esther but everything she loves.

Oliver is wrapped in his funeral sheath and Jackson covers the body with alcohol before setting it adrift in bayou.   In the middle of the lake, Oliver's remains burst into flames, as a very sad Jackson watches.

Later, Jackson continues to drink and is joined  by Hayley.  It seems that Jackson is very upset that the wolves broke tradition by failing to show up for Oliver's funeral this morning.  A distraught Jackson pronounces the loyalty gone.  Hayley is momentarily sympathetic to Jackson's loss and then quickly points out that their people need their alpha.  Hayley takes the bottle away from Jackson, before leaving him to his thoughts.

Hayley and Aidan arrive at Marcel's place and Marcel is not pleased to see them, saying that he is not running a den for wayward wolves.  Hayley explains that the plan is to take down Finn today and given how Finn treated the vampires, she assumed Marcel would want in on the bloodbath.  Aidan adds that this won't be easy because Finn is surrounded by wolves and doesn't have a weakness. Marcel is quick to call Cami, Finn's weakness but Hayley points out that Klaus will go ballistic if Cami is drawn into this.  Marcel points out that Klaus isn't here and Cami doesn't like to be told what she can and cannot do.

Cami tells Vincent in session that Klaus has not called and that she is not sure whether or not she wants to be around him anymore at all.  Vincent calls Cami's admission a nice piece of progress.  Cami then asks Vincent if she could get a new advisor, so Vincent questions if their sessions are unproductive. Cami assures Vincent that this is not the case and explains that Vincent is indeed getting to know her, the issue is that she wants to get to know Vincent as well. Vincent is stunned and does not answer, so Cami grabs her things to leave.  Cami doesn't even make it to the door, before Vincent stops her to ask if she enjoys jazz.

Davina is working on a spell when Kol makes his way out of the shower to see her.  Davina is not impressed, telling Kol that she is trying to repair the damage he did to her delinking spell and that the only reason she is still sharing a motel room with him is for his "freaky witch encyclopedia brain." Kol instructs Davina that she needs to sleep because she has been awake for days but Davina points out that it is" hard to rest with a 1000 year old psycho in the next bed." Kol snarks about Davina making him sound like a "creeper." Davina is not impressed with Kol's charming way and Kol admits that Davina seems resistant to his charms.  Kol argues that he cannot share his secrets with Davina, unless they trust each other, adding that if Davina wants to take down Klaus without her friends dying, then she would be a fool not to listen.  Kol suddenly falls to his knees and a series of symbols appear burned into his arm.  Kol explains to Davina that this is Esther's way of calling him home.  

Vincent heads to see Esther (still surprisingly in the body of Lenore) and Esther reports that Kol will return home soon and that Elijah will awake from his slumber believing that the only way to regain his humanity is to join their family.  Esther hands Vincent an item to subdue Cami, saying that she wants Cami brought in without any kind of bodily harm.  Vincent is shocked, as he believed he had more time but Esther makes it clear that once Klaus has been influenced by Ansel, they will need to act quickly.  Vincent tells Esther that he has no need for this item, as he is capable of bringing Cami in without it.

Klaus is walking through the woods and notices that he is being followed. Klaus quickly slams Ansel into a tree, explaining once again that he has no intention of taking Esther up on her offer and adding that his real family needs him.  Ansel however offers to hep Klaus find the orchid he needs to help Elijah, adding that it was he who found the orchid for Esther in the past to put Michael to sleep.  Klaus again says that he doesn't believe Esther brought Ansel back for them to have a father son game of hide and seek, before starting to storm off, only to be told by Ansel that he is heading in the wrong direction.  

Hayley drives Kol, who questions if Hayley ever has any fun with her magic. Kol explains that he was a witch and in fact a child prodigy before he was a vampire.  Kol adds that he loved the power and the rush but lost it all after they were turned, which led him to a dark period.  Hayley snarks about murder and mayhem and Kol explains that he spent a lot of time with witches, learning from them, as well as teaching them, in the hope of getting back what Esther stole from him.  Hayley questions if this is why Kol was brought back as a witch and Kol explains that Esther believed the body he is using would be the best for the task at hand.  Hayley expresses shock that Esther sent Kol to flirt with her and Kol explains that he was sent to follow Hayley, he decided on his own to flirt with her.   

Aidan, Josh, Marcel, and Hayley, look over the blueprints for the bar that Cami has promised to meet Vincent at.  Hayley wants to rush the bar and rip Vincent's head off but Marcel points out that Vincent will simply jump bodies.  Cami walks in carrying a box and agreeing with Marcel, adding that Vincent will have a hard time answering their questions without it.  The box contains dark objects Cami's uncle left for her and  Cami believes that these tools can be used against witches specifically.  Marcel holds up a pair of handcuffs, once used against Voodoo queens to stop them from doing magic.  Aidan points out the obvious - they are not going to just be able to slap the handcuffs on Vincent when he is surrounded by werewolves.  It's Josh who suggests luring Vincent away.  Hayley questions Cami if she is sure about playing bait and Cami simply tells the group to make it look convincing because Vincent is really smart.

The Renfield Syndrome (Rhiannon's Law #2) by J.A. Saare

Rhiannon has been transported 100 years into the future, reminding her just what a bad idea it is to make a deal with a demon

This is not a hopeful future. She learns far more about the world than she imagined – the existence of half-demons and werewolves for a start. But she also learns about the ominous future awaiting them – the Renfield syndrome, wiping out a vast amount of humanity and leaving many of the rest enslaved to vampires – or languising under the werewolves’ dubious… protection.

Rhiannon has to find her place in this war torn, devastated world – and desperately try to find a way home.

Any regular reader of this blog will know that I have a habit of continuing series long past the time when I should have given up on them. It takes a lot for me to let a series go once I’ve read the first book – and this book reminded me why I do that

I wasn’t a big fan of the first book for several reasons. But this book was a massive step up.

Firstly, it was much more original. With the introduction of time travel, the wider array of supernatural creatures and even a dystopian element we were definitely outside of the Urban-fantasy-by-the-numbers game. The world setting was different from anything I’d read before and while the various supernatural creatures weren’t immensely, the way they interacted with the world was. In fact, the fact the vampires et al were quite familiar worked well in a setting that was so different from what we usually see

On top of that, Rhiannon was the driver of the plot for her own reasons, following her own planning and according to her own, personal motivations. She refuses to be manipulated, adamantly refuses any attempt to protect or shelter her (especially when that protection means imprisonment” and equally refuses to be pulled into anyone else’s agenda – even that of loved ones. She knows what needs to be done, she knows what she needs – with the looming deadline of the demon contract in front of her as well as the alien world she finds herself placed in – and refuses to be pulled into comfortable, safe existences even with people she cares about or even when it would be easier to do so.

As an extra bonus, Rhiannon actually went about achieving her aims with something resembling sense, planning and coherent thinking which was nice to see (ok, her success was based on huge chunks of luck and a magical-shiny that is ridiculously overpowered and renders far too many conflicts sadly anticlimactic, but she used her over-powered deus ex with decent common sense).

Personally, I also really appreciate Rhiannon’s refusal to forgive. When she is abused or wronged Rhiannon doesn’t just let it go – I like that because we have culturally absorbed an idea that forgiveness is some kind of duty; that somehow if we do not forgive people who have harmed us then we are failing as a person in some way. I appreciate the subversion of that – Rhiannon does not always accept an apology, in fact, if she has been hurt she won’t even give the person a chance to apologise: she will create, demand her own space away from them and no matter how much they want to reconcile, she will not be open to that until she is ready.

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 6: Ask Jeeves

New Canaan, Connecticut and a very rich house apparently in mourning because a woman, Bunny Lacroix has died. Even the staff are upset (or, at least, they’re good at putting in an appropriate show) though this may be because the whole family is due to arrive. One of the maids tries on the dead woman’s pearls – Ghost!Bunny does not approve and said maid, Collette, goes sailing over a bannister to her death. Surprisingly, the Butler sees the undead Bunny and while outraged at her, doesn’t see overly shocked by her presence.

Over to the brothers and Dean being insecure about whether his coffee is manly enough. While they have no cases, they have conveniently found an old phone of Bobby’s with a call saying he’s been named a beneficiary in Bunny’s will. I don’t think I’d ever be so bored as to actually attend a will reading of a person I never knew, on behalf of a friend who is now dead. Dean has decided they’re next of kin so off they go to see if they can grab the inheritance.

They arrive at the severely posh mansion (and I don’t care how much money you have, a door bell that plays Fur Elise is tacky. Money doesn’t buy class). Dean is unimpressed (nor willing to dress up – they don’t have to pass themselves up as FBI agents so he doesn’t have to wear a suit). They did miss the funeral (guess there was no budget for that) but they do get to crash the family party full of very very rich Lacroixs.

One of which is a woman (Heddy) who is most certainly happy to see the “adorable” Sam and Dean (along with her sister Beverly who certainly agrees). There’s also Stan their brother and Amber his bride (who Heddy and Beverly hate of course) and Dash the only one who questions why the Winchesters are there. They tell the family about their surrogate dad, Bobby (and let’s have a moment to appreciate them calling him that) and learn they have to stay the night to hear the will reading the next day.

Beverly and Heddy make their interests refreshingly clear and the Butler takes the Winchesters aside to try and get them out of the house – not, surprisingly, because the Winchesters aren’t classy enough but because he thinks the Lacroix are terrible people and he wouldn’t inflict their company on the brothers. He passes the package Bobby was left to them. Inside is a necklace with a gem encrusted Celtic cross pendant.

Dean’s hope that the gems are real are quickly dashed, but it turns out the amulet is also a key. Time to ask the butler what it’s a key too

Meanwhile after Stanton accuses his wife of cheating and badmouths his dear departed sister, his apparently dead brother-in-law shows up to behead him. Which means Dean and Sam return to find themselves dragged into a murder enquiry. Dean and Sam take the story of a ghost seriously while the rest of the family argues, slut shames and makes catty comments about women being old. Ah, familial love. Unfortunately since Detective Howard has detained them all for questioning, Dean and Sam don’t have their usual ghost hunting tools. Dean goes investigating while Sam gets some family background from Dash.

This Week in Book Covers 10th November - 14th November

West of Sunset by Dennis R Upkins

There’s not much to say here - it’s a very plain functional cover that could be on any book up to and including a text book (which is what it resembles to me more than anything).

Black Widow (Elemental Assassin #12) by Jennifer Estep

This is a lot better than previous books in the series. That isn’t saying much, the bar is quite low. But she’s actually stood in a position she could actually manage comfortable (albeit one designed to show breasts and butt - but without that much in the way of spine bending). The knives are also appropriate as are the clothes

My one issue - is Gin 16? This model looks… young, very very young.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Dark Victorian: Risen (The Dark Victorian #1) by Elizabeth Watasin

Artifice and Jim are agents for Prince Albert’s secret commission. Condemned criminals, they have been risen from the grave with a combination of dark magic and esoteric science to be the crown’s agents in fighting criminal dark magic that threatens the city.

Someone is raising the dead and their creations are causing chaos and death throughout London. The two agents must track them down and stop them – and along the way, new agent Artifice learns about her history and what she has become – and realises she has a lot more questions than answers.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that was quite like this - the world setting is fascinating and amazing

We have a steampunk Victorian setting where magic is commonplace – all kinds of magic but in particular England has been plagued by lots of dark magic from illicit practitioners getting up to all kinds of naughty shenanigans (and killing lots of people) until something had to be done. And that something was the powers that be creating their own undead agents from condemned criminals.

Enter our characters – brand new agent Art (Artifice, a ghost) and the much more experienced agent Jim Dastard (a skull. A talking skull). This is definitely a unique cast right there. And they have a really fascinating dynamic – Jim is really experienced and knowledgeable, he is Art’s guide to London, magic and the whole world around her; he has all this insight. But he’s also a skull. Providing knowledge is pretty much the entirety of what he can do – he provides knowledge but he is entirely reliant on Art to actually physically act.

And Art has had her memory wiped as part of the resurrection process – but she knows she’s a Quaker (which is a fascinating and rare viewpoint in and of itself). But she knows, by merit of her being undead, she must have committed a capital crime (or have been executed anyway) which brings in lots of guilt and worry. There’s the whole complexity of her having to relearn the world around her, having all these memories but no context to connect them to an knowing absolutely nothing about herself – knowing more about the places around her than her own history. Then there’s added conflict with her having to go out and be focused on the mission, not her charitable impulses and even having to fight, hurt and perhaps kill people as part of her job which conflicts massively with her Quaker morality. But she has to be the one to act – because Jim can’t and she’s so physically capable (she’s extremely strong). There’s a whole lot of depth there and it’s all touched on with a delicate hand. It doesn’t consume the story but it’s all there, it’s wonderfully well done.

Their presence in society is also fascinating: because they are, in some ways, the thing that stands between the general populace and all kinds of evil machinations, almost hero figures. But they’re also police which makes people from vulnerable classes suspicious, and they’re undead and they’re former condemned criminals. There’s a lot of nuance there.

Forever, Season 1, Episode 9: 6 A.M.

Pieces for this week’s a murder – a jazz club, a man who is down on his luck but expecting a pay day – a pay day which apparently involves exposing some other guy who isn’t his biggest fan as some kind of nefarious “business man”.

Or, in other words, this guy walks around with a great big “hey, murder me” sign over his head. In his car a guy with a garrotte is happy to oblige.

Cut to Abe and Henry with Henry complaining about the music you “young people” listen to today and moaning about Abe’s love of jazz. A murder saves Henry from the trauma of 20th century music.

Turns out our down-and-out guy’s car was set on fire after the garrotting. Henry arrives to tell them he was murdered before burned (while Hanson and Jo snark)

Time for a gruesome autopsy and melodramatic voice over as is Forever’s wont. They find that he’s been garrotted with a piano wire and Jo has the victim’s ID – Isaiah. The accelerant used to burn him was cellulose – old film stock. Lucas babbles as Lucas does

They interview his sister, Ella, who alludes to her brother’s money troubles and him being a jazz musician and that he had spoken to their father who Isaiah claimed had given him something that would turn his luck around. So it’s off to see their dad, Pepper Evans, a skilled jazz musician playing saxophone in a train station.

Pepper tells them he gave Isaiah his old recordings (possible cellulose source). He also tells them the club Isaiah probably went to, before returning to busking.

Back to Abe and Henry only because they’re hilarious and Henry playing the grumpy dad to Abe is really well done (especially the dramatic “I failed as a father!” to his son’s taste in music). Abe has one of Pepper Evan’s records.

This calls for a flashback to Henry trying to teach Abe as a child how to play classical music (which he found boring then) and a musician neighbour needing medical attention after hurting his hand – (though his “argument with his old lady” suggests he hurt his hand hitting his wife); he introduces Abe to Jazz.

To the present and the club Isaiah visited where Henry grabs the case Pepper gave Isaiah as well as finding the guitar the murder weapon came from. So time to interrogate the bar tender, Rudy.

In the interrogation room Rudy reveals that Isaiah used to say a jazz legend called Lionel Hubbard stole the sing 6AM from his dad; Lt Reece points out to Henry how vital and legendary that song was. Time of death also clears Rudy. Lt Reece also knows a suspect – Al Rainey who owns a company that has the rights to 6AM – and is known for fleecing musicians (including Reece’s own nephew).

Poor Lucas babbles and is duly ignored.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Archangel's Consort (Guildhunter #3) by Nalini Singh

The world is rumbling – the weather is raging, the Earth moving and vampires are suddenly losing control of their bloodlust in droves. All of these dire portents mean one thing – an ancient Archangel is emerging from Sleep

A being of immense power, it could never do anything but radically alter the balance of the Cadre of Ten. But there is one Archangel above all they fear – Caliane, impossibly ancient, incredibly powerful – and Raphael’s mother.

As the portents rage, Elena continues to adapt to live as an angel, now in town among her friends and family – the latter of which is very complicated and incredibly painful as old wounds have yet to heal

Well, it happened. After two books of saying how well this series was balancing the romance and the plot and generally praising how we can have a lot of sexual tension, sexual obsession and sex scenes and relationship drama without it eclipsing everything else, we have this book – which sadly fails to do that

Partly it’s because Raphael and Elena spend a lot more time having sex than they did in previous books. Also I think there’s a missed opportunity in examining how the mechanics of sex would differ when you have a 20 foot wing span – and I’m not being snarky there. This series is very good at covering the mechanics of being an angel and things like them needing nice, wide open plan houses because small rooms and low ceilings are a pain in the arse for angels with large wings. Even covering things like how a vertical take off is actually really really hard to do or how wings in combat can be a liability.

And partly it’s because there are major issues in this world setting I think have been unaddressed and therefore needed more focus than the repeated sex scenes. Like last book the city of Beijing was destroyed. Beijing – one of the oldest, largest cities in the world and the capital of one of the major powers of the world – beyond a little moping about it there was surprisingly little aftermath. It was used as a way to gasp at how powerful Archangels are, but not as something that should have shaken the entire planet. This also links into the various atrocities and horrors that re happening in this book – again they’re used to make people busy and to give a sense of how major the events are but without any real long term cost or effect of any of it. Either we get close, personal grief from Elena over something that has hit close to her family or her own traumatic past or we get nothing. Earthquakes, destruction, devastation – I can understand angelkind being indifferent because that’s there thing – but these things should have a very real societal and economic effect, not just personal trauma.

Equally, Lijuan is still alive and around after the dramatic events of the last book… what’s happening with that? Is everyone just kind of going to pretend the show down didn’t happen? Is it like one of those office parties where everyone got really drunk and did silly things so the next day at the office everyone’s just going to pretend it didn’t happen?

Once Upon a Time, Season 4, Episode 8 & 9: Smash the Mirror

Flashback time – to a long time ago in Arendelle to when Ingrid buried the hat-box-thing (that steals magic, hereby called the Fantasia Hat). She then goes to the Enchanted Forest to tell the Sorcerer’s Apprentice (who doesn’t lie her because she embraced the dark side of the Force) that she has his boss’s hat. He tries to threaten her with a sword that doesn’t really impress her much and she presents what she wants – happiness, a third magical sister to join herself and Elsa.

To the present and Storybrook where Emma is still shooting off magical sparks in her car. Henry tracks her down (somehow) telling her how running from people never fixes anything so she zaps him with magic (accidentally. Honest :P) Henry tries to reassure her but Emma panics and tells him he has to leave.

To be fair, if I were Emma I’d have trouble not zapping my blood relatives as well.

Ingrid drops in to do her recruitment pitch but Emma drives off.

The Charmings, Elsa and Killian gather together for angst and whining, as they do and Henry joins them to explain how pear shaped everything has become. Elsa decides to exposition which throws us into flashback world where Ingrid told Elsa a somewhat edited version of events on how their sisters will always hate them for being magic and special and occasionally freezing people to death. Anna is in prison and totally evil.

Elsa goes to the prison, gets rid of the guards and makes it clear that she doesn’t believe aunty Ingrid and is definitely team Anna. They hatch a plan to put Ingrid in the urn. They go searching for the urn (“helped” by Kristoff and Anna) and find the urn (and Hans’s frozen body).

They work their way through the castle, hiding from the guards (for some reason) while Elsa angsts about her parents trying to take away her magic while Anna tells her how her magic makes her special and she loves her sister with magic.

Sadly for them, Ingrid outsmarts Anna (which, admittedly, is not exactly a difficult feat) and chains Anna up. They then discuss old legends including the creation of the magic mirror that makes whole kingdoms hate each other. She uses a piece of the hate mirror on Anna. Angry Anna goes to confront Elsa with the Urn but Elsa rightly realises Anna has been spelled. Ingrid tells her to freeze Anna – and Elsa refuses. Anna puts Elsa in the urn

Ingrid isn’t happy with this turn of events and plays to the idea she’s being persecuted because Anna and Kristoff look at her like she’s a monster (hah must be all the monstrousness). Ingrid freezes the whole castle – Anna and Kristoff included. This may have killed them – or so Rumplestiltskin thinks when he appears. He wants the hat Anna took from him and to make sure he gets it, he vanishes the urn full of Elsa Ingrid has. Oh Rumplestiltskin, the source of all the evil everywhere!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fangs for the Fantasy Podcast: 2014, Episode 24

It's time for this week's episode of Fangs for the Fantasy podcast

You can join us here and you can listen live on our youtube channel, here, or in our sidebar. All will also carry a recording after the show is finished. As ever all our previous podcasts can be found in the archive

The podcast begins at 7:00pm EST (technology willing)

10th November - 17th November: Under Suspicion by Hannah Jane
17th November - 24th November: Loki’s Wolves by K.L. Armstrong, M.A. Marr
24th November - 1st December: Tempest Revealed by Tracy Deebs
1st December - 8th December: Death’s Mistress by Karen Chance
8th December - 15th December: Staked by J.F. Lewis
15th December -  22nd December: Odin Ravens by  K.L. Armstrong, M.A. Marr

The Walking Dead, Season Five, Episode Six: Consumed

This episode opens up with a flashback of Carol being cast out by Rick.  Carol holds her head up and does not cry, until she finds herself alone on the side of the road in her car.  When a zombie batters on the window, Carol is forced to start the car up and drive on.  Carol finds what looks to be an abandoned law office and bunkers down for the night, reading a magazine by candlelight.  The next morning, she hangs a bag outside a window in an attempt to catch some water if it rains.  Carol however takes off when she sees smoke in the distance.  Clearly, Carol has returned to the prison to see it burning down.

In the present, Darryl and Carol drive and Darryl tells Carol about how he escaped the prison with Beth.  They continue to follow the car and Darryl comments that Rick is going to wonder where they went but Carol suggests running them off the road.  Darryl is not inclined to go that way because they have the advantage right now, adding that they can figure out who the people are and then do whatever is necessary to get Beth back. When the car stops, Darryl stops a distance away, watching.  Two people get out of the car and one is dressed as a cop. A zombie begins to bang on their window, which attracts the interest of the cop.  The cop stares for a few minutes, before getting back into the car and driving away.  Darryl moves to follow, only to discover that he is out of gas.  Darryl says that given the direction they drove, the group must be inside the city somewhere.  Carol suggests a place that she knows of and they take off walking, after killing the zombie which was banging on their window. 

Carol and Darryl make their way through a dark building using torches.  It turns out that this is where Carol stayed temporarily, after Rick kicked her out of the group.  Carol offers to take first watch, saying that they should sleep.  Carol asks Darryl if he started over and Darryl replies that he is trying. Darryl asks Carol what is really on her mind and Carol replies that they don't get to save people anymore but she is trying.  They end up lying next to each other in bed, until they hear a thumping noise.  Darryl is quick to grab his crossbow and Carol a gun.  They begin to search the building and find an adult walker and a child walker.  Carol moves to kill the walker and Darryl holds her back, saying that she doesn't have to.  

The next morning, Carol wakes up to see smoke in the window.  When Carol heads outside, she finds that Darryl has wrapped the walkers from the night before in sheets and is burning them.  Carol joins Darryl and thanks him, as the smoke rises.

We get a flashback to Carol digging a grave for Lizzie and looking up and seeing smoke in the horizon.

Under Suspicion (Underworld Detection Agency #3) by Hannah Jayne

When a client doesn’t show up for an appointment, Sophie decides she needs to investigate. She quickly finds that the client isn’t the only one to disappear – or face violence
Faced with the complete indifference of her boss, colleagues and friends, Sophie decides she will track down the attacker.
Sophie is one of the most frustrating protagonists I’ve ever come across. She is supposed to be in her 30s but she is grossly immature and ridiculously incapable. She acts like a particularly inept teenager. She’s utterly dependent on the people around her and regularly collapses into tears in a puddle of limp spined jelly on the floor. Where she will get wet because she drools so much over hot guys (when not monologuing over them ridiculously) that she must be constantly standing in a puddle. Also the “Sophie gets drunk, makes a fool of herself and needs to be carried home” looks like it’s becoming a compulsory scene in every book. Sophie, you’re 33+ years old. Grow up, get yourself together and check under the couch cushions for your dignity that you must have mislaid them somewhere.

When not pushing around the decaying mass that pretends to be a plot, Sophie is finding random events that are supposed to be funny (which aren’t) or worrying about getting fat while eating chocolates and sweets.
I know that probably a lot of people would be equally as inept as Sophie. Ok, I know there are some people who may be as inept as Sophie. On their very very bad days. Maybe. It could be argued that Sophie is merely slightly incompetent (rather than utterly incompetent) person forced into circumstances outside her skill set. But she’s not – she happily “volunteers” (which is a generous way for “sticks her nose in”) to random situations she’s grossly unsuited for and then whines and falls apart because she’s grossly unsuited. Her boss in this book repeatedly tells her to mind her own business and stick to what she’s good at and I think we’re supposed to see him as villainous for doing so – but he makes a lot of sense
Sophie’s co-characters are equally shallow. She has her Guardian, an English guy with a terrible Dick Van Spike accent who exists to be hot and randomly save Sophie from whatever disaster she’s dived head first into this time. There’s her friend, the vampire Nina, old, powerful – and a caricature of silliness who manages not to be frustrating just because Sophie is so much worse. And Vlad, an old vampire who looks 16 and decides to act it as well, because why not?
Perhaps worse than all of this is the plot itself – that just doesn’t work. It is held together by dubious reasoning and bizarre behaviour on the part of the cast. So much of this book is outright contradictory or forced or convoluted it was actively irritating to read
Take the very idea that Sophie has to do all the investigating – why does it fall to her to investigate despite the fact she not only doesn’t have applicable skills (nor, for that matter, basic competence at, well, anything)? Because no-one else cares. Multiple attacks and murders on demons and no-one cares because… who knows. At no point does this book ever adequately explain why everyone is so indifferent to a serial killer in their midst – it exists surely so Sophie can be the plucky one deciding to investigate. Not only does virtually no-one care about the murders, but a surprising number of people (Including Alex who has past experience with Sophie so should really know better) treat her like an actual decent investigator (or borderline competent person) and let her wander around crime scenes. This worked in book 1 where she was providing expert knowledge for the police, but not when she’s running around dragging Dick Van Spike around with her.

Fangs for the Fantasy book of the week

The next episode of our podcast will be starting tonight at 7:00pm EST (12:00am GMT). You will be able to listen to us on our youtube channel, or by the link in the sidebar or by the post here that will be posted. We hope to see you there

Like all  the Fangs for the Fantasy podcast(archives here) we read a book and discuss it on the show. 

To give people a chance to read along with us we include a list of our planned books of the week for the next few shows, so people can get the books, read them and join in the conversation.

10th November - 17th November: Under Suspicion by Hannah Jane
17th November - 24th November: Loki’s Wolves by K.L. Armstrong, M.A. Marr
24th November - 1st December: Tempest Revealed by Tracy Deebs
1st December - 8th December: Death’s Mistress by Karen Chance
8th December - 15th December: Staked by J.F. Lewis

15th December -  22nd December: Odin Ravens by  K.L. Armstrong, M.A. Marr